(Content notice: description of racist, anti-trans violence)
I really don’t understand all these people supporting Ce-Ce. Ce-Ce was verbally abused for being trans, and yes that should never have happened. But Ce-Ce KILLED a man for that verbal abuse. And of course that should lead to a prison sentence.
Or do you think just because someone is trans you should defend everything they do?
I really don’t understand how anybody could look at that and not consider it a matter of self-defense. CeCe was running away from a life-or-death fight that she didn’t start. The man she killed was chasing her down.
Or do you think just because someone is trans you should attack everything they do?
Not only was she being chased, she had just been smashed in the face with a glass by one of the people who had been insulting her.
It should amaze me that some assholes are utterly glossing over the fact that there was more than just a verbal altercation in this case. They just absolutely have to hold on to the idea of a violent black trans women in spite of publicly available evidence. Wonder why that might be.
I think the most striking thing about this video is not how sincerely excellent Sylvia Rivera is in the video and how she shouts and yells and speaks to spite the radfems and white queers who sought to silence her…
What strikes me is how little has changed.
She talks about going to jail. (see CeCe McDonald)
She talks about being raped. (see the recent case in Sweden)
She talks about how these things impact twoc and has to fucking shouting to be heard.
Aren’t we still shouting? Aren’t we still having the *exact* same battles with radfems?
As much as Sylvia inspires me this video depresses me.
Trans WoC are still dying, being raped, and being purposely excluded from groups that exploit their activism, their words, their anger, their bodies.
I had the same reaction when I watched the video. As happy as I was to see her stand up to the people trying to silence her, the fact that she could have been talking today underscores how basically nothing has changed. Oh, except how we don’t have her any more. :’(
This is a guest post by Redlark. Redlark is a white, lower-middle-class queer activist working a pink collar union gig in the Twin Cities. They are working with an amazing group of friends and allies of CeCe McDonald to get CeCe’s charges dropped and help her move back into her normal life.
Cece McDonald stood up to bigots and survived a hate crime. Now she’s in the county jail waiting to be tried for second degree murder.
This is a story about intersectionality – what happens when a young trans woman of color goes up against white supremacy, misogyny and transphobia. It’s a story about what happens when you have to fight for your life.
It began last June, the night of the 5th, when Cece and her friends – all young, black and queer – decided that they wanted to walk to the grocery store.
The grocery store in question is in south Minneapolis just off Lake Street, the busy, polluted, vital artery running from the wealthy white neighborhoods by the lakes through blocks of working class, multiracial, immigrant businesses before it ends in upmarket gentrification at the river. The grocery store is between the police station and the the light rail in a historically contested neighborhood where communities meet, mix and sometimes contend: the older white working class who bought in during the seventies and eighties meets immigrants from Mexico, Somalia and Central America who came looking for work or for political refuge; Native people still under the gun of colonization; African-Americans who’ve lived in Minneapolis for generations or arrived from Chicago or New Orleans in the last few years; students, punks and radicals, mostly but not exclusively white, gentrifiers or born in the neighborhood.
To get to the store, the group had to walk past a dive bar called the Schooner.
Dean Schmitz and his friends were standing outside the Schooner’s side door. All were older – Dean was 47 – and all were white. When they saw CeCe and her friends walk by, they started yelling – “faggots” “chicks with dicks” “n*****s” – a litany of vile abuse targeted at a group of much younger strangers.
CeCe McDonald has a strong sense of justice – she decided to confront Dean and his friends. So she and her group walked toward the bar.
Before we go any further, let’s talk about CeCe.
She’s 23, a college student in fashion design, a trans woman, Black, femme, very funny and widely known to be a generous person – a woman who housed and took care of her chosen family of younger queer and trans folks. Her friends call her Honee Bea.
CeCe is someone who fights for social change who even from jail has been urging her supporters to help other victims of white supremacy – including the family of Jaime Gonzalez, who was killed by the Texas police while he was at school.
She is someone who has faith in herself, in her community, in her values. “Love is inevitable and overcomes any and all things,” she writes.
CeCe and her friends are brave and tough, strong enough to walk around being visible in a world that attacks and criminalizes you if you’re young and African-American, and doubles the assault if you’re young and African-American and trans and femme.
You probably know – if you’re trans you definitely know – that trans women of color face incredible, staggering rates of violence and homicide. In most places it is essentially legal to discriminate against trans people in housing, employment and social services. As a result, trans people, especially trans women, are socially vulnerable in all kinds of ways – and vulnerable turns into “criminalized”, whether it’s because you can’t change your legal documents to match your gender or because you’re homeless and panhandling or because you’re doing sex work to make the rent…or because you have to fight to keep yourself safe
Trans people are ten to fifteen times more likely to have been incarcerated than cis people. Nearly half of all African-American trans people have spent time in the prison system.
Seventy percent of the GLBTQ people murdered in 2010 were people of color. Forty-four percent were trans women.
If you’re vulnerable, you have to wonder – will someone assault you? Will you survive? Will anyone help you? That’s a pretty heavy thing to carry around in the back of your mind every day.
CeCe and her friends knew the statistics, but they still dared to rebuke hatred when it spoke. They walked up the Dean Schmitz and his group, and CeCe told him that her crew would not tolerate hate speech.
But hatred hits back. One of Dean Schmitz’s friends told them, “I’ll take you bitches on,” and smashed her glass into Cece’s face, puncturing her cheek and badly lacerating her salivary gland.
There was a fight. Multiple people were involved. At the end, CeCe was on the ground in a pool of her own blood. Dean Schmitz was dead.
When the cops came, Cece was the only one they arrested. They took her to jail, withheld medical treatment, and sometime in the small hours got her to sign a confession. She recanted it as soon as she was able to do so.
Later, the medical examiner discovered a swastika tattoo on Dean Schmitz’s body.
Let’s talk about white supremacy, because this it haunts this case.
White supremacy is a system, and it runs on routine plus terror. The routine is the dull grind of discrimination – the stop-and-frisks of youth of color in the hope of finding something to get their fingerprints are in the system, the heavy policing in black neighborhoods and the heavy discipline in schools when kids of color are involved, the biased, expensive court system, the unspoken but obvious job discrimination and always, always the white supremacist narrative in mainstream culture saying that people of color deserve what they get.
And then there’s terror. Whether it’s the Jim Crow South or the modern North, it’s the knowledge that at any time you can be attacked, hurt, killed and no one will do anything. That your body, your life, your friends’ lives could always be on the line.
Terror keeps the machine humming. If you act up – if you talk back – anything might happen to you.
An interesting thing about prosecutor Michael Freeman: in the last year, he’s dropped charges against three people who killed accidentally while fighting for their lives. But he’s leaning on CeCe to plead guilty, and he initially persuaded the court to set her bail at an outrageous $500,000 – as if CeCe, the injured survivor of a hate crime, was some kind of risk to her community.
The court system isn’t neutral.
If you haven’t been on the wrong end of the legal system, it’s very easy to assume that the courts will sort everything out. Privileged people – white people, middle class people, cis people – can grow up identifying with the court system and with the idea of “neutrality” – especially when articulate white men in nice suits are talking. Something happened, privileged folks think, and the courts will figure it out, they’ll assign blame correctly, someone will pay a debt to society, and all’s well that ends well.
Here is what really happens: CeCe is in jail. Visiting is severely restricted, so getting a trans activist in to see her so that her friends can find her a trans-friendly lawyer is difficult. That lawyer has to work for free, because CeCe doesn’t have enough money and neither do her friends, and all her support committee’s money is going for bail. It takes a month to get meaningful treatment for injuries from the night of the attack, so her cheek swells up with a lump the size of a golf ball. She gets put in solitary “for her own protection” – which means ‘because she’s trans’ – and the support committee has to organize call-ins to get her out.
In order for a prisoner to be able to call you, you have to pay a monthly charge to a phone security service, and her friends are struggling to get work. So money has to be found for that. And the trial date has been moved once. Every time a trial date is set, her support committee mobilizes people — thirty or forty people have taken vacation days or changed their schedules so they could show up. Will it be moved again?
It’s easier and cheaper for the court system when people plead guilty, and it results in a politically-useful higher conviction rate. In the United States, the number of plea-bargains has skyrocketed in the last two decades and the number of actual trials has gone way down.
This is how the courts get people to take a plea – prisoners get tired and worn and confused and low in spirits, so they plead guilty just for a little certainty and an end to the ordeal. And many, many of those are people of color.
This isn’t just about CeCe. It’s about the way young women are harassed and assaulted every day in every city. It’s about the way trans women are treated as disposable and the way black youth are criminalized. It’s about the constant social violence by which white supremacy, transphobia and misogyny are maintained.
And it’s about whose experience counts. When we believe CeCe, we’re saying that we hear trans women, we hear youth of color and we believe what they say about their own lives. We name racism, we name violence, we name prejudice – and we refuse them with all the strength we have.
We need to get the charges against CeCe dropped. There’s precedent, the prosecutor has the authority and a victory here would be a victory for so many people – for CeCe, for her community and friends, for youth of color and trans youth who face violence and hatred. To do this, we need to get Michael Freeman to listen. We need voices. We need media.
We need to make it clear to Michael Freeman that this case is visible – we aren’t going to forget about CeCe no matter how often the trial gets moved, and we aren’t going to forget about any miscarriage of justice, either.
You can call Michael Freeman at 612-348-5540, fax at 612-348-2042, and email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember to remain polite but don’t be afraid to be assertive. Some key points to mention in your calls, emails, and faxes are:
*Identify yourself as a supporter, friend, family member, or community member calling about Ms. Chrishaun McDonald’s case.
*Tell the County Attorney’s Office why you’re concerned: Ms. McDonald was the target of a hate crime, but she was singled out for aggressive prosecution after the attack.
*County Attorney Freeman has declined to press charges in cases like this at least three times already this year. Remind him that he has the power to drop the charges against Ms. McDonald.
Tell Freeman not to side with Ms. McDonald’s white supremacist attackers: drop the charges against Ms. McDonald.
For more information and new developments: www.supportcece.wordpress.com. You can sign the petition calling for Michael Freeman to drop CeCe’s charges here.
PROSECUTORS RETALIATE FOR PLEA REFUSAL, RAISE CHARGE AGAINST MCDONALDSUPPORTERS PACK COURTROOM IN MCDONALD’S FIRST COURT APPEARANCE SINCE HER RELEASE
Minneapolis, MN – In a clear retaliatory move against Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald for her earlier refusal of a plea bargain, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office amended the complaint against her this afternoon, October 6, adding a charge of 2nd degree murder with intent in addition to her previous charge of 2nd degree murder without intent. Additionally, the prosecution hinted at a motion to raise bail but did not, in the end, raise the motion, since McDonald has already been released on bond. McDonald maintains that she has been falsely accused, noting that the incident that resulted in Dean Schmitz’s death began when she was violently attacked for her race and gender while walking to the grocery store. McDonald was released on bail earlier this week.
Supporters believe that the prosecution increased the charges against McDonald as further retaliation for her recent refusal to agree to a plea bargain offered on September 22. The prosecution has also asked to move McDonald’s trial up to December 12. Supporters object to the earlier court date, which appears to be an attempt to stifle community mobilization to support McDonald in court, and limit the defense’s time to prepare for trial. The defense has requested that McDonald’s trial date be returned to the original date of January 9.
McDonald and her supporters note that the new, harsher charge demonstrates that the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office continues to side with the white supremacists who attacked her and fail to acknowledge the hate crime that McDonald sustained. Katie Burgess, Executive Director of the Trans Youth Support Network, had this to say after Thursday’s hearing: “There is a clear choice to be made in this situation: do you stand with white supremacists? Or do you stand with queer youth of color in our community? Hennepin County has chosen to protect the interests of hate and bigotry. As people of conscience and compassion, we’re calling on them to exercise their discretion in this case and drop the charges against CeCe!”
McDonald was released from the Hennepin County Jail on Tuesday night, after a final push from her Support Committee to raise the cost of bond. Community supporters will continue to fundraise to offset trial costs. McDonald sent out this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can. Hate cannot drive out, hate only love can.”
McDonald’s trial is tentatively scheduled to begin on January 9, and supporters have vowed to pack the courtroom for the trial and any future hearings. Visit http://supportcece.wordpress.com or email@example.com for more information.
What a shock that prosecutors are trying to make sure she doesn’t get justice.